getaway -- Harlem Nights are no farther away than Hyrum
SPRING IN THE
STEP: Dancers celebrate with some swing at Harlem
Nights Bash. / Photos by Caresa Alexander
By Caresa Alexander
February 27, 2009 | HYRUM
Music and dance reminiscent of the Swing Era filled
the Elite Hall dance floor Saturday evening to
celebrate the sixth annual Harlem Nights Bash.
Sponsored by the USU Big Band
Swing Club, Harlem Nights is a weekend event that
features swing instruction, dancing and competition.
The name comes from a dance called the Lindy hop
that developed in Harlem, N.Y. Harlem Nights is
held in celebration of Black History Month.
“Our event is really
one of a kind," said Sarah Tritsch, publicity
and activities chair for Harlem Nights. Tritsch
has been a member of the USU Big Band Swing Club
since the fall of 2007.
“Lindy hop is one of
the more difficult basics to learn but once you
do, your whole world of swing opens up,” she said.
Harlem Nights began Friday evening with dances
at the Bullen Carousel Ballroom and Club NY in
On Saturday the event continued in
Logan with workshops at Dasante Dance Hall and later
at Elite Hall in Hyrum where the Hellzapoppin’ Dance
Competition took place.
The Larry Smith Combo provided music
for the event at Elite Hall. According to Heidi Eiman,
event director and coordinator for Harlem Nights, 170
people ranging from high school age students to senior
citizens attended the closing swing dance at Elite Hall.
Speaking of the history of Elite
Hall, Tritsch said there are stories of people lined
up out the door to get inside.
“Four hundred to 500 people
crammed inside this building. We’d love to see that
again although that might be wishful thinking,” she
Located at 98 W. Main St. in Hyrum,
Elite Hall was constructed in 1917. It is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places. According
to the marker, Elite Hall is one of only a couple of
dance halls in the state with a spring-loaded dance
The floor was perfect for the Hellzapoppin’
Dance Competition as it provided “extra bounce” to the
dancers. The historic marker reads that this feature
attracted dancers from all over Northern Utah. Today
it attracts people from around the world.
According to the event brochure,
the Hellzapoppin’ competition is one of the biggest
Lindy competitions in Utah. Three levels of completion
were featured this year. Guest instructors Mike Faltesek
and Casey Schneider from Seattle judged the competition.
The competition started with the
beginning couples taking the floor to demonstrate their
skills. After a break the intermediate couples took
turns showing their stuff. “Take that, advanced division!”
exclaimed Faltesek when the intermediate couples finished
dancing. After another break, the advanced couples competed
and won huge smiles and laughs from the crowd. The USU
Big Band Swing Team, Swingcopation, also performed.
Carolyn Palma and Michael “Dargoff”
Darigol from Seattle won the $1,000 grand prize. When
asked what they would do with the money, Palma and Darigol
responded they would probably go to Sweden. The Herräng
Dance Camp, located in Herräng, Sweden focuses on the
African-American swing dance tradition, according to
One does not need to be experienced
like Palma and Darigol to enjoy swing dancing. Jennifer
Monsen, a member of USU’s Big Band Swing Club, had no
experience when she began dancing. In fact, she accidently
walked in on auditions. Although Monsen did not make
the team she learned a lot. “It has been a blast,” said
Monsen said the hardest thing is
keeping a good connection with your partner.
“It is very important to be
able to feel what they are doing so that you are not
always watching their feet to know what they are doing.
You have to be able to feel the way their body moves
and that’s a little bit difficult to get used to but
I’m getting better,” she said.
Tritsch also said learning to depend
on a lead was difficult. “In swing dancing you have
to learn to work as a pair and not just as an individual,”
she said. While there is structure to follow and predict,
Tritsch admits that swing dancing can also be unpredictable.
“Mostly it is left up to the creativity of the dancer,”
Facebook is a great way to network,
according to Cole Allen of Seattle. Through Facebook
she and Palma found dancers that they stayed with in
“You meet so many people and
everybody’s really nice. Once you start dancing socially
you meet so many people who will tell you about things
around the world,” said Allen.
Darigol agreed and said, “Lindy hop
is just really a big community more than club here,
USU currently offers two beginning
swing classes and one advanced intermediate class. Eiman
said most students take the classes because they are
interested in learning how to dance. “They just come
wanting to learn how to do it, not knowing that there
is actually a place to dance,” she said.
Swing instruction and dances are
held through the school year at the Elite Hall the first
and third Saturday of the month and at the HPER building
every Friday. The USU Big Band Swing Club has been active
for 10 years.
“Swing dancing has a very hip
personality. You can always find a dance that fits you,”